Exploring the Universe with Elite Dangerous: I know that grit can make a pearl, but until it does it’s still bloody grit…

In my last post I gushed unapologetically about how much I’m looking forward to ED’s Beta 2 and so to address the balance I want to post a little about what grinds my gears in the game as it currently stands (beta 1.06 as of writing). Now I won’t be covering stuff I know is going to change in the future (such as “I hate it that I can’t scoop gas/land on planets/travel to Sol!”) because they are not gripes but simply things in development. No, I want to take this opportunity to mention a few things that get under my skin about the way the game runs and I do this in the vague hope that enough people agree with me that Frontier Development reconsider and I can save my remaining teeth from being gnahsed to dust. That and to let off steam. And construct a post for the blog, obviously.

Docking is dangerous… Look, for the most part I love docking and I’ll never get a docking computer because I like the feel of doing it manually but some aspects of it are needlessly risky and make no sense, such as:

1) Why isn’t the “Request Docking” command in the Comms section?If it were then I could request docking whilst looking at the station spewing out ships instead of turning away to scroll through options on a screen 90 degrees to the side of the front window (for more on this particular pet peeve, read the next point below).

2) Why don’t rich, advanced systems implement holo UI overlays for approach paths? Simple directional chevrons for approach paths and barriers for and holding patterns will ensure pilots go to the ‘correct’ side and don’t try and enter or leave whilst the port is blocked by a bloody great Anaconda they don’t see until it’s too late. These systems would only be implemented at rich stations with pirate and indies only having them occasionally / not at all because they wouldn’t care, but it makes no sense for ‘normal’ stations controlled by responsible authorities who then allow a potentially deadly free-for-all to happen right outside their front door, it just makes them look like dumb AI instead of real people.

3) FD need to sack whichever docking droid allocates the docking bays! At the very least get them to number them so they go from 1 by the front door to 100 (or how ever many there actually are) at the back. Who is the name of all that is holy about toast puts 16 right at the front? A malfunctioning docking allocation droid, that’s who! Also, please re-write their code so they allocate all the huge hulks to bays at the back and put the nibble wee ships at the front so they can get down & docked without blocking the whole damn doorway! Simples!

4) If a pilot is detected smuggling why must the cops blow them up right outside the station? That’s just dangerously insane! They know the smuggler is about to dock and even at which pad so a better idea would be to hit them with confiscation and fine they have to pay off before they release the ship. That way smuggling still carries risk (possible death if a pilot runs or a fine and no profit if he docks) without the bizarre spectacle of gun-mad cops hoofing around HE missiles and laser blasts right outside the only entrance which then litters the place with dangerous debris! The cops should only open fire if a pilot decides to make a break for it rather than dock *after* being scanned and found wanting. Look at this way, if you are speeding on the motorway the police don’t try to ram you into oncoming traffic just to stop you because that would be plain mental, wouldn’t it?

5) There is a great little holo UI display that appears when landing to help guide pilots down, but there is nothing to help them avoid taking off into the path of a speeding Cobra, slowly cruising Anaconda or out-of-control NPC lunatic. I would like to see a new holo UI display appear in place of the landing one when a pilot is taking off, this new display would be a depiction of the 100-200m volume around the pilot enabling them to see if they are about to be rammed up the jacksie by a Viper as they move up laterally (and avoid such a fate should they so wish…)

I only found it, officer… Why is it that when you find cargo drifting in space and pick it up you are automatically accused of stealing it? What if it’s slaves and you are rescuing them? What if it’s the cargo of your friend who had his cargo hold damaged? What if… what if… what if… Look, salvaging needs to be fleshed out. I want to see it made into a viable profession with insurance companies paying pilots to recover lost cargo and pilots being able to run deep system salvage runs without being harried and shot at by the rozzers.

I fought the law and the law won! Speaking of the rozzers, I really, really hope FD start to tweak the legal landscape so that you are more than just guilty or not guilty. The example I’ve used before and still think is valid is that of finding cargo canisters of dumped slaves in space. The canisters will degrade and the people inside will die so you rescue them, except as soon as you do you are branded a thief for stealing cargo. If you take these poor souls back to the nearest station (assuming you are not scanned by cops and ‘spoded for smuggling even though you were trying to rescue them) you can’t free them and instead must sell them making yourself a slave trader. That means I will have a dilemma in game that snaps me out of the game – instead of thinking “I can rescue these people” I’ll be thinking “Great, I can’t touch those cans because the game will brand me a slaver and frankly I don’t need that level of hassle” and that ain’t good,is it?

Look left, look right, look left, look right… You know when you are driving down the motorway and you want to turn on the radio? Well you turn your head 90 degrees to the right and stare at the radio screen when you fiddle with the controls, don’t you? Or when you want to alter the sat nav you simply look directly at the left hand passenger seat window and start twiddling with the route options, isn’t that right? What? You don’t, you say? You never take your eyes off the road in front of you for more than a second and have controls that are arranged around you so you don’t have to turn away from the front window ever? Well blow me down… You see, when piloting the ships currently available in ED I have to switch my view all the way to the left or the right and away from the front just to do simple stuff like turn my lights on and off or operate my landing gear. Imagine coming into land and having to divert your attention from the front just to lower the wheels – insanity! Look, the front view is all I should be looking at unless I’m visually tracking an object in the volume of space around me. No system should ever break my view, EVER! I love the reactive holo UI displays, just not the fact I have to turn away from the action mid-combat to use them. I would much rather the UI popped up from the lower corners of the front UI – there is enough screen real estate to accommodate them and I could keep my eyes firmly fixed on what I was flying in to rather than worrying I was about to splat myself against the station/outpost/ship/asteroid.

They don’t like it up ’em! I’m not much of a fighter but I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t find the odd skirmish with an NPC pirate a rush. That is until the stupid AI pilot dive bombs right into my cockpit and ‘splodes me. WHY? The damn pilot wasn’t about to be killed so why suicide into me? I tell you why – bad piloting on my part and stooooopind AI on ED’s part. Now I can do something about the former but the latter is something I sincerely hope FD is looking to improve. I can’t imagine they are not, given how often NPC ships are ‘sploding inside space stations and ramming into other ships all over the place but as I’ve never read anything from FD stating they are working on an AI model 2.0 It wins a place on this list.

So that’s my list of things that annoy me. I’m sure there are small things I’ve forgotten but hey ho, these are the biggest grains of grit. What are yours?

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